'On June 19th there were two meetings of the Cabinet about Egypt, to which I was called in; one at two, and another at six o'clock. I simply said, like the servants when they fall out: "Either Arabi must go or I will."
'On June 20th another meeting of the Cabinet took place at half-past three. Lord Hartington called attention to the fact that Lord Granville had altered "must" into "should" in No. 130, for the telegram had after all been printed for the Cabinet and the Embassies with the word "should." The Cabinet sat for four hours, and then adjourned to the next day, on a proposal by Northbrook and Childers to ask the French whether they would go halves with us in sending 15,000 men to guard the Canal. On June 21st I came down a little from my position of the previous day, and stated that I would go out with Hartington if he liked, but that if he would not, and I stood alone, then I would swallow Arabi on the ground that the oath to take him out was sworn by England and France together, and that if France would not do her half, we could not do both halves, provided that they gave me (1) protection of the Canal, (2) a startling reparation for the murders and the insult to our Consul at Alexandria.
'At two o'clock the Cabinet met again. Lord Granville had in the meantime written me a letter ... as to the leaving out of "must" and inserting "should." He said that if we changed our minds or had to adopt palliatives, such as the defence of the Canal and reparation at Alexandria, "our nose would be rubbed in 'must.'" I wrote back that our position was not the same, inasmuch as he was evidently looking forward to having to defend in Parliament a complete surrender, which I was determined I would not do. On the same day, however, we exchanged very pleasant letters about an accident to Lady Granville, of which Lord Granville wrote: "It frightened me out of my wits."
'The Cabinet decided on the instructions to Dufferin for the Conference, adopting proposals with regard to them which were made by Chamberlain, and which were, in fact, mine. Lord Granville refused to take them from Chamberlain, but Mr. Gladstone, with some slight changes, made them his own, and then Lord Granville took them directly. Northbrook went off delighted to continue his transport preparations. Hartington warned Indian troops without consulting his colleagues, but escaped censure. On June 23rd I suggested that somebody should be appointed to assess damages to property at Alexandria by the riots, as a ground for a claim against the revolutionary Government, and suggested Lord Charles Beresford for the work; but Lord Granville refused the man though he accepted the thing. I obtained his consent to telegraph that we should insist on payment of money to the relatives of the eight British subjects killed, of money for the men hurt, of damages for the destruction of property, on the execution of the murderers, on a salute to our flag at Alexandria, and a salute to our flag at Cairo.
'On Saturday, June 24th, as I was only getting my way from day to day upon these points by continually threatening resignation, Lord Granville wrote to me in solemn reproof: "Nothing should be so sacred as a threat of resignation." But I cannot see, and never could, why if one intends to resign if one does not get one's way about a point which one thinks vital, one should not say frankly exactly what one means. I never blustered, and never threatened resignation except when I fully meant it.
'On Sunday, June 25th, there came a curious telegram from Dufferin, stating that the Sultan was "quite prepared to hand over to us the exclusive control and administration of Egypt, reserving to himself only those rights of suzerainty which he now possessed. In fact, what he offered was an Egyptian convention on the lines of the Cyprus convention." Lord Granville and Mr. Gladstone took upon themselves to decline this offer without laying it before the Cabinet, and on Tuesday, the 27th, the Queen sent to Hartington to express her anger that the Sultan's offer of Sunday should have been declined without consultation with her. I certainly think that a Cabinet ought to have been called, but the Cabinet would have backed the refusal, though they afterwards regretted it.
'On June 28th I was again sent for to the Cabinet, which discussed a proposal from the Sultan to send troops.
'On June 30th I dined with the German Ambassador, who told me that Musurus had said to him exactly what he had said to me at the French Embassy, and that he had placed the conversation upon record. On the same day two additional British gunboats were ordered to the Canal.
'On July 1st I had one of the most difficult tasks to perform that were ever laid upon me. I had wanted to get off the Cobden Club dinner fixed for that day; but, Lesseps having come over as a flaming Arabist for the express purpose of making a ferocious Arabi speech at this banquet, I had to go in order to propose his health, to sit next him at the dinner, to frighten him out of making his speech, and to make such a speech myself that he could not without provoking his audience mention Egypt at all. In all this I succeeded. I told him privately that, after the massacre of eight British subjects at Alexandria and the promise by England and France that they would jointly keep order in Egypt, if he introduced the subject I would speak again after him and raise the audience against him. The old gentleman was very angry, but he made a different speech, and the matter passed off successfully. Lord Derby was in the chair, and gave me great assistance, because, through Lord Granville, he allowed me to inform Lesseps that if he began to deliver the speech which he had in his pocket, he should rise and tell him that it was contrary to the rule of the Club to introduce controversial topics likely to lead to violent discussion, and, in fact, make him sit down. Lesseps brought me a telegram from his son, who was at Ismailia, stating that there could be no danger in Egypt unless there were an armed intervention, and threatening us with the destruction of the Canal if intervention should take place.
'On July 3rd there was a Cabinet on a proposal by Italy for the free navigation of the Canal. This was most unnecessary, as a virtual neutralization in practice existed, but the Italians wanted to do something, and after an enormous deal of discussion they ultimately got their way upon this unimportant point.
'On Monday, July 3rd, I received from Bourke, my predecessor, the first warning of strong Tory opposition to British intervention in Egypt.
'On the 4th Mr. Gladstone, Hartington, and Childers met to decide whether the reserves should be called out and the troops sent forward, but just before their meeting I saw Lesseps come past my door and go to Mr. Gladstone's room at the House of Commons, which was next to mine, and going in afterwards to Mr. Gladstone I saw the effect that Lesseps had produced. Lesseps had a promise from Arabi to let him make a fresh-water irrigation canal without payment for the concession, as I afterwards discovered.
'On this day I wrote a memorandum on the subject of intervention (I have an impression that it was based on Chamberlain's views, but I am not sure). I pointed out that many Liberals thought that intervention was only contemplated on account of financial interests—that if we intervened to protect the Canal and to exact reparation due to us for the Alexandria outrages, this feeling need not be taken into account; but that if we were going to Cairo, we ought to make our position clear. As far as Arabi personally was concerned, his use of the phrase "national party" was a mere prostitution of the term. But there was in Egypt a very real desire to see Egyptians in office, and a certain amount of real national sentiment, and that sentiment we might conciliate. I thought that if we intervened by ourselves the control might be considered dead. The intervention must be placed on the ground either of the need for settled government at Cairo, in order to make the Canal safe and our route to India free, or else on that of the probable complicity of the revolutionary party in the Alexandria massacres, or on both. But in the event of such an intervention I was of opinion that we should say that the recommendations of the Notables for the revision of existing institutions would be favourably considered, with the proviso, however, that the army should be either disbanded or diminished, the only military force necessary in Egypt being one for the Soudan and a bodyguard for the Khedive. To these views I have always adhered, and while I strongly supported an intervention of this kind, I was always opposed to an intervention which made us in the least responsible for Egyptian finance, or to an intervention followed by an occupation.
'Late on this afternoon of July 4th I secretly informed the Khedive, through Rivers Wilson, of the instructions that had been given to Beauchamp Seymour to bombard the Alexandria forts if the construction of new earthworks erected against our ships were not discontinued; for I felt that the man's life was in danger. I had been refused leave to tell him, and I did it without leave. When I saw Wilson he told me that Lesseps had officially informed him—Wilson being one of the British directors of the Suez Canal, and Lesseps Chairman of the Company—that we by our action were endangering the Canal. This was evidently a French menace on behalf of Arabi, and I took upon myself not to report it, as it would have only further weakened the minds of men already weak. Lesseps was not truthful. He told Mr. Gladstone that the Khedive had informed him that he was satisfied with the existing situation. We immediately telegraphed to the Khedive, through Sinadino, his Greek banker, who was representing him in London, to ask him whether this was true, and the Khedive answered by sending us all that had passed between him and Lesseps, from which it was quite clear that it was not true....
'On July 5th there was a Cabinet as to the sending forward of troops, at which it was decided to somewhat "strengthen our garrisons in the Mediterranean." Chamberlain afterwards told me that before this Cabinet Lord Granville had begged his colleagues to remember who Mr. Gladstone was, and not push him too hard. On this day, however, Mr. Bright, Lord Granville, and Mr. Gladstone stood alone against the rest of the Cabinet in supporting a let-alone policy.'
On the 7th, as has been told in the last chapter, Mr. Gladstone, under the combined irritation of Irish and Egyptian difficulties, used words in debate which indicated his intention to resign, and "the two representative Radicals," Dilke and Chamberlain, had to consider what their course would be if he went out.
They agreed, as has been seen, to go with Mr. Gladstone and Bright; to refuse to join a new Administration should Mr. Gladstone be outside it; to reconsider their position if—Mr. Gladstone going to the Lords or quitting political life—they were satisfied with the new Government's programme; but the storm blew over. [Footnote: The full diary dealing with the difficulties of this moment has been given in the chapter on Ireland of this date (see supra. Chapter XXVIII., pp. 446, 447).]
'On Monday, the 10th, it again seemed probable that Mr. Gladstone would resign,' but this time it was in consequence of the loudly expressed intention of the Lords to throw out the Arrears Bill.
Mr. Gladstone, however, decided not to go; the majority prevailed, and Sir Charles was able to write on Monday, July 10th:
'I had now given the reply which informed the House exactly of the steps which would be taken. Guns having been again mounted on the 9th, the Admiral told the Commander of the troops at daylight on July 10th of his intention to open fire on the forts at daylight on July 11th. Exactly one month after the Alexandria riots reparation for those riots was tardily exacted at the same spot.'
Sir Charles's personal attitude cost him some friends in France. His brother Ashton wrote to him from La Bourboule a letter (received on July 9th), in which he said: "To judge by the French newspapers, you are as popular in France as Pitt at the height of the great war." A note from the Memoir renders this state of feeling explicable: [Footnote: A very different current in French opinion from that of the newspapers found outlet in this letter from M. Emile Ollivier:
"SAINT TROPEZ, "4 Aout, 1882.
"MON CHER MONSIEUR,
"Vous avez ete si aimable lorsque j'ai eu la bonne fortune de faire votre connaissance, que vous ne pouvez douter de l'interet sympathique avec lequel j'ai suivi le brillant developpement de votre carriere politique. Aujourd'hui je tiens a sortir de mon adhesion muette et a vous exprimer combien j'admire et combien j'approuve la politique actuelle de votre gouvernement en Egypte. Commissaire du gouvernement egyptien aupres de la compagnie de Suez depuis pres de vingt ans, j'ai etudie de pres ce qui se passait sur le Nil, et je ne crois pas ceder a un mouvement d'amitie pour le Khedive, en pensant que c'est de son cote que se trouvent le Droit, la justice, la civilisation. Apres l'avoir intronise, lui avoir promis de l'appui; l'avoir pousse contre Arabi, le laisser entre les mains d'une grossiere soldatesque, ce serait une felonie doublee d'une sottise, car on perdrait ainsi ce qui a ete gagne sur la barbarie par les efforts de plusieurs generations. Aucune paix ne vaut qu'on l'achete aussi cher. Votre pays s'honore et se grandit en le comprenant, et sa victoire sera celle de la civilisation autant que la sienne propre. En se separant de vous, nos seuls amis, en ce moment, en abandonnant le Khedive malgre tant d'engagements repetes, les personnages qui nous gouvernent consomment la premiere des consequences qu'il etait dans la logique de leurs idees d'attirer sur nous—l'aneantissement a l'exterieur. Les autres suivront. Nous ferons une fois de plus la triste experience qu'on ne supprime pas impunement de l'ame d'une nation l'idee de sacrifice, de devouement, d'heroisme, pour reduire son ideal aux jouissances de la vie materielle et a l'amour bestial des gras paturages. Vous etes bien heureux de n'en etre pas la.
"Je vous felicite chaleureusement de la part que vous avez prise aux males resolutions de votre gouvernement, et je vous prie de croire a mes sentiments les plus sincerement cordiaux.
'The French Government having ordered their ships to leave Alexandria in the event of a bombardment of the forts, I suggested that our sailors ought to pursue them with ironical cheers, such as those with which in the House of Commons we were given to pursue those who walked out to avoid a division.'
From July 11th it was clear that France had decided to do nothing. England's course of action was still undecided.
'Although reparation at Alexandria was being virtually exacted by the bombardment, in spite of this having been put only on the safety of the fleet and the defiance of Beauchamp Seymour's orders, yet it had not, on account of Mr. Gladstone's opposition, up to this time been settled that we should land troops. There was now no hope that the threat which the French had proposed to us, and which we had accepted in January, declaring that "the dangers to which the Government of the Khedive might be exposed ... would certainly find England and France united to oppose them," would be acted upon; but there was still some idea that Turkish troops might be landed under strict safeguards for supervision. On July 11th Chamberlain suggested to Lord Granville that Lord Ampthill should be sent to Varzin to see Bismarck, and ask him what intervention would be best if Turkish failed. This suggestion was not accepted, but Lord Granville wrote to the German Ambassador to the same effect.
'Mr. Gladstone was in a fighting humour on the next day, July 12th. I have the notes on which he made his speech, which give all the heads, and are interesting to compare with the speech as it stands in Hansard. He put our defence upon "the safety of the fleet" and "safety of Europeans throughout the East." He was indignant, in reply to Gourley, about the bondholders, and, in reply to Lawson, about our "drifting into war," and he certainly believed, as I believed at that moment, that the Alexandria massacres had been the work of Arabi, for one of his notes is: "International atrocity. Wholesale massacre of the people, to overrule the people of that country." [Footnote: Sir Charles, as has been said, did not adhere to his view concerning Arabi's responsibility.]
'On July 13th the Foreign Office prepared a most elaborate despatch from Lord Granville to Lord Dufferin, explaining the whole position of affairs in Egypt. The despatch was much knocked about by Chamberlain and myself. It had recited how an officer and two men of our fleet had been killed, another officer wounded, the British Consul dragged out of his carriage and severely injured; six British-born subjects killed, and the Greek Consul-General beaten; but it had omitted the important fact that a French Consular-Dragoman, and one, if not two men of the French fleet, and several other French subjects had been killed. The chief alterations, however, which we made, or tried to make, in the despatch were in the direction of omitting all reference to the financial engagements of Egypt, which we were most unwilling to take upon ourselves in any manner. I actively pursued the question of the outrages upon British subjects at Alexandria and of compensation. We went into the case of Marshal Haynau, that of Don Pacifico, [Footnote: Both cases furnished precedents for dealing with an instance in which foreigners had been maltreated when visiting or residing in another country. Marshal Haynau, the Austrian General infamous for his brutalities in Italy (especially at Brescia) and in Hungary in 1848, came to England on a private visit in 1850, went to see Barclay and Perkins' brewery in Southwark, and was mobbed by the employees. The Queen, in response to indignant remonstrance by the Austrian Government, pressed the sending of a note of apology and regret for this maltreatment of "a distinguished foreigner." Lord Palmerston, then Foreign Minister in Lord John Russell's Ministry, sent the Note, but added a paragraph which indicated that, in his personal opinion, the brewery men were justified in their action, and that Haynau had acted improperly in coming to this country at all, knowing the feeling against him here.
Don Pacifico, a Portuguese Jew who had settled in Athens, was, as a native of Gibraltar, a British subject. Having had his house pillaged by a Greek mob, he appealed to the Home Government, and Lord Palmerston sent the Fleet to the Piraeus to enforce his demand for settlement of the claim put in. Greece appealed to Russia and France, and part of Don Pacifico's claim was referred to arbitration by a Convention of the Powers signed in London. Our Minister at Athens continued to take measures which resulted in the Greek Government giving way, and, in consequence, the French Ambassador was recalled, while Russia threatened to recall Baron Brunnow. It was in the Don Pacifico debate that Lord Palmerston made his great speech of five hours, containing the famous Civis Romanus sum, which turned the House of Commons in his favour, and saved him from defeat by a majority of forty-six.] and others mentioned in a memorandum printed for the use of the Foreign Office in August, 1877; but the inquiry afterwards held broke down our case.
'On July 14th the Admiralty and War Office fell out; the Admiralty maintaining that they could put down all the trouble in Egypt by the employment of a few marines commanded by an Admiral, whereas the War Office had set their hearts upon a great expedition under Wolseley.
'On July 16th the German Ambassador complained of my having stated in the House of Commons that Germany approved our action, not denying the fact that she did, but saying that such "announcements made confidential communications impossible," and I had to reply that, while Austria had approved and Germany not disapproved, I was not justified in stating that Germany had approved, although there had been "circumstances calculated to make me believe that such had been the case." On July 16th Wolff wrote to me from the country: "I suppose Bright has resigned. Si sic omnes except yourself." Bright had resigned, and there were some who were anxious that I should be put into the Cabinet in his place, but I was not one of them. On July 17th Wilfrid Blunt was at the window of the St. James's Club in Piccadilly, and, seeing me pass, cried out to Lord Blandford and others who were with him: "There's Dilke that has done it all." That seemed to me to be an answer to those who wanted me put in in the place of Bright. "The great peace man goes out, and they want-Mr. Gladstone to put in a man who is looked upon as a war man, although he thinks he is not and thinks he is right." ...
'On July 18th I received a letter from Labouchere which was characteristic: "Dear Dilke,—I am one of those who regretted that the late Government did not seize Egypt.... Many on our side—being fools —regret that we ever interfered in Egypt.... Personally I think ... unless you seize upon the opportunity ... to establish yourselves permanently in Egypt, you all deserve to be turned out of office. Success is everything. This is the 'moral law' as understood by the English nation. Bombard any place, but show a quid pro quo." There was, however, no member of the Government, unless it was Lord Hartington, who held these views, and not one who at this moment even contemplated a permanent occupation, though I was fearful that unless the matter was fairly faced, in advance, upon the lines which I had suggested, a permanent occupation would be set on foot.
'Late on July 18th there was a Cabinet to discuss a proposal from me to tell Dufferin in a "personal" telegram that we should not object to Italy being third with England and France; which was afterwards expanded into a direct invitation, upon my suggestion, for Italy to go with us without France, which Italy declined. [Footnote: The reason for Italy's refusal will be found explained in the Appendix to this chapter (p. 477) in a letter from Baron Blanc, who was Italian Ambassador at Constantinople.]
'After the sitting Lord Granville told me that Mr. Gladstone's letter to Bright about his resignation was far from pleasant in tone, and had put an end to a very long friendship. Morley, in his Life of Gladstone, states the contrary, but he is wrong. [Footnote: Life of Gladstone, iii. 83-90.]
'On July 19th I suggested that Arabi had probably told the people in Cairo that he had defeated us at Alexandria, and that it would be well to inform the Khedive, and through him the Governor of Cairo, that intervention was about to take place on a scale which would make resistance ridiculous, and Lord Granville asked Sinadino to do this.
'On July 20th the German first secretary came to me about Bismarck's complaint of my speech, and Lord Granville wrote back in reply to my report of the conversation: "I do not think much of Stumm's observations.... There is something in Bob Lowe's maxim, never to admit anything; but if you do, I have always found it better to shut the admission against any rejoinder." After all, Count Munster admitted that we had the "moral support" of Germany, and I could not myself see much difference between "moral support" and "approval." Lord Granville even reported in writing that we had Bismarck's "good wishes, good will, and moral support," and I certainly could not see that I was wrong. The last position of all of Bismarck was that we were not justified in saying even "moral support," but that we had his "best wishes," I think he must have had a touch of gout at the moment when he read my speech.
'A Cabinet was to have been held early on July 20th to decide to send out an army corps; Mr. Gladstone forgot to call it, and it had to be brought together suddenly (some members being absent), and agreed to the proposal for a vote of credit. Mr. Gladstone informed his colleagues that he should not meet Parliament again in February, but should leave the House of Commons after the Autumn Session, if not before it. Late at night there came the news that Arabi had turned the salt water from the Lake into the great fresh—water canal, and I had to go to inform Mr. Gladstone and Childers in their rooms. Their replies were full of character. Mr. Gladstone dramatically shivered, and said with a grimace: "What a wicked wretch!" Childers said: "How clever!"
'Early in the afternoon of Saturday, July 22nd, when the House of Commons sat, I was two hours in Mr. Gladstone's room with Lord Granville, Northbrook, and Childers. There had been a mistake in the vote of credit, really a blunder of L1,300,000; not of L1,000,000 only, as was afterwards pretended, for the estimate had been cut down in the meantime. It was entirely Northbrook's fault, ... but Childers, like a good-natured fellow, in spite of their many quarrels, let it rest upon his shoulders, where the public put it. In the course of our conversation it came out that Childers was in hot water with the Queen, and had sent her a letter of apology on the Friday night, Mr. Gladstone writing at the same time that he himself had nothing to add to what Childers said. Childers broke out against the Duke of Cambridge, who "went chattering about the place, refused to behave as a subordinate, and wrote direct to the Queen." I guessed that the trouble had been either about the employment of the Duke of Connaught or about the sending of the Household Cavalry; both of which had been decided. The Queen likes the Duke of Connaught to be employed, but never to run the slightest risk; and in dealing with soldiers this is a little awkward. The Duke of Cambridge was always a great source of trouble to Governments, Liberal or Conservative, for even Conservative Governments have, from the necessity of the case, to desire military reform. He is essentially not a grandson, as history tells us, but a son of King George III., just such a man as the royal Dukes whose oaths and jollity fill the memoirs of the time of the great war. But the Duke of Cambridge ... knows how to stop all army reform without incurring personal responsibility or personal unpopularity with the public. A distinguished General once said to me: "When we are invaded and the mob storm the War Office, the Duke of Cambridge will address them from the balcony, and, amid tumultuous cheering, shout, 'This is what those clever chaps who have always been talking about army reform and brains have brought us to,' and lead them on to hang the Secretary of State for War."
'On Monday, July 24th, there was a Cabinet to consider the obstruction of the French, who were trying to prevent our intervention. I was not called in, but I believe that my suggestion as to Italy was again mentioned, for on Tuesday, the 25th, Lord Granville told me that he had been intending to ask the Italians to go with us, but that the Queen had objected and caused the loss of a day, and that he thought he should be able to ask them on the morrow.
'On July 25th I made a speech which was much liked by the House, and Northcote congratulated me quite as warmly as did our own people. When Mr. Gladstone was finishing his letter to the Queen late at night, Chamberlain asked him to let him look at it, which I never had the "cheek" to do. The phrase about me was "answered the hostile criticisms with marked ability and with the general assent of the House," and there was no praise of Chamberlain's own speech, which had been spoilt by mine. On this occasion, as in the great Zulu debate in the previous Parliament, when he had been my seconder, it so happened that I took all Chamberlain's points beforehand, and in almost the very words in which he had meant to take them. On the other hand, on occasions when he spoke before me and I had to follow, as, for example, in the famous debate with Randolph Churchill about the Aston riots, [Footnote: At the height of Mr. Chamberlain's influence in Birmingham Lord Randolph Churchill proposed to stand against him, and held a meeting at Aston. Lord Randolph accused Mr. Chamberlain in the House of Commons of having hired roughs to break up this meeting.] the converse occurred. This was, of course, the inevitable result of our habit of very free and continual conversation.
'When we sounded Paget in advance as to our invitation to the Italians on this evening, he replied that "if we pressed her, swearing she would ne'er consent, she would consent." But, although I afterwards thought and said that I had been amazed at her refusal, my notes of the moment show that I had anticipated it.
'On July 27th a new element of disturbance was introduced by the Prince of Wales applying to the Government for leave to take a military command in Egypt. The Queen at once interfered to stop it; some members of the Cabinet consulted together at a sudden meeting in the Cabinet room at Downing Street, to which I was called in, Childers, Northbrook, and Mr. Gladstone being present, and it was decided to back the Queen's refusal. It was agreed between Lord Northbrook, Childers, and myself that for the future I should see all the Admiralty and War Office telegrams.
'At 5.30 there was a regular Cabinet to consider the tardy consent of the Turks to send troops at once. They were informed that circumstances had changed, and that we must go on with our intervention; but that they would be allowed to occupy forts not at Alexandria.
'One of the first Admiralty telegrams that were brought to me was one which directed the Admiral to inform the Khedive that we were going to restore his authority, which was the most emphatic thing which I had seen.'
On July 29th M. de Freycinet's Government was defeated on a vote of credit for money to send ships to protect the Suez Canal, [Footnote: A new Ministry was formed under M. Duclerc.] and so terminated all possibility of France's partnership in the enterprise. On the same day General Menabrea politely refused an invitation that Italy should co-operate.
But the Turks were still disposed to assist, on their own terms, and these did not yet make it clear what, if they landed, would be their attitude towards Arabi and his partisans. Accordingly,
'On Monday, July 31st, we had to tell the Turks that if they insisted on going to Alexandria we should sink them, and matters began to look like a second Navarino.
'On Thursday, August 3rd, the Cabinet approved our previous proposals to send instructions to the Admiral not to allow the Turks to land in Egypt until they agreed to all our terms.
'On Tuesday, August 8th, Childers insisted that if Turks landed in Egypt they should not be treated as allied forces, but as a portion of our forces under our General. Lord Granville, Hartington, and Northbrook thought this too strong, and it was left to the Cabinet to decide, and on the next day, Wednesday, the 9th, Harcourt expressed his concurrence with the majority.'
'About this time I had a letter from Dufferin, describing how he had tried to frighten the Sultan by the bogey of an Arab caliph. But Dufferin was at this moment in despair; the face of politics changed too rapidly for Turkish diplomacy, and just as he had succeeded in getting the Turks to send troops to Egypt, as he had been told to do, it was so much too late that we had to tell them that we should sink them if they went—so doubtless the Turks were a little confused in their minds as to what we really wanted.'
The Memoir now carries the story down to the close of the expedition by which Sir Garnet Wolseley destroyed Arabi's power in the Battle of Tel-el- Kebir.
'August 10th.—At this moment the Prince of Wales being most anxious as to what was going on in Egypt, and having again failed to obtain the telegrams, I promised that I would write to him daily, or whenever there was anything of importance, and keep him informed, and this I did.
'On August 16th there was a debate in which we defended the general policy of the expedition, and I again have Mr. Gladstone's notes for his reply to Sir Wilfrid Lawson, in which he again asserted that the supporters of Arabi Pasha were not only rebels, but criminals as well, accusing them of misuse of a flag of truce, and of deliberately setting fire to the town of Alexandria.
'On August 17th I had a visit from a brother of the Khedive, Ibrahim Pasha, who said: "I want to go to Egypt. I should be very glad to go as a Sub-Lieutenant, although there may be a little difficulty, for I am a Field-Marshal in the Turkish Army." This modest youth, who looked like the full moon, had been trained at Woolwich, spoke English well, and was a devout Mohammedan, thought that he would be of use to us, but his brother would no more let him land in Egypt than he would any of the other and abler brothers.'
Parliament was prorogued on August 27th.
'On August 28th Mr. Gladstone thought that we should refuse to make a Convention with the Turks, which they had now agreed to. But Lord Granville and I thought that we had better make it for the sake of the effect in Egypt, and Mr. Gladstone half yielding, our willingness was telegraphed. On September 5th, however, Lord Granville told me at Walmer that the Queen was strongly opposed to the Convention, and I noted that this was the first time when I had ever known the Queen and Mr. Gladstone to be agreed upon any subject.
'We took time by the forelock as a Government with regard to the preparation in advance, and, even before our landing in Egypt, for that which was to happen after the revolutionary movement was put down. Sir A. Colvin thought that 4,000 men in addition to the military police would be ample for the security of the country, and Sir E. Malet appeared to agree. Mr. Gladstone wrote a minute himself upon the future of the country, in which he proposed to act upon all my ideas. He suggested the banishment of Arabi, a minimum military force '(Egyptian),' a large police force, in which Indian Mohammedans were to be allowed to enlist; but he wished a small British force to remain temporarily in the country—a point to which I was much opposed, inasmuch as I felt certain that if we stayed there at all we should never be able to come away.
'A good deal of Cabinet work fell upon me at this moment because Harcourt buried himself in the New Forest, and Chamberlain went away to Sweden, asking me for a full table of instructions as to what he was to do as to calling upon Kings, inasmuch as, he declared in his letter, I was his arbiter elegantiarum. I went down to Birmingham in his absence to see my son' (who was living at Mr. Chamberlain's house). 'Hartington came up to town now and then, but apparently was soon tired of it, as in the middle of September he wrote to me to ask what was the meaning of the Cabinet on the 13th which he meant "to shirk." There were two Governments at this moment—the one consisting of Childers and Northbrook in London, carrying on operations in Egypt; and the other consisting of Lord Granville at Walmer and Mr. Gladstone at Hawarden, connected by the telegraph, explaining them to the Powers.
'During the period of the invasion of Egypt by us I used to meet Childers, Northbrook, and Hartington at the War Office almost every day, when Hartington was in town, and the other two when Hartington was away. Tel-el-Kebir was on September 13th, and we met on that day as well as the days before and immediately after.
'Immediately after Tel-el-Kebir I had from Auberon Herbert a letter, which began: "My dear successful Jingo, whom Heaven confound, though it does not appear to have the least intention of doing so.... How I hate you all! But am bound to admit you have managed your affair up to this point skilfully and well. The gods, however, do not love, says Horace, people who have three stories to their houses."'
'The refusal of the Italian Cabinet was afterwards explained to me in a most interesting letter from Baron Blanc, at that time (March, 1888) Italian Ambassador at Constantinople, and afterwards (December, 1893) Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs:
'"The refusal of the Cabinet of Rome in 1882 to intervene, with England only, as allies in Egypt was a success of French diplomacy, but at the same time a result of the past policy of England.
'"Nothing on the part of England had prepared the Italian Government to believe it possible that England would cease to gravitate towards France in Mediterranean questions, especially when Mr. Gladstone was in power. The hope that England would join the Italian-German understanding, concluded in principle in 1882, had remained in these early days merely theoretic. The Mancini Cabinet, in doing that which Minghetti, Visconti, Bonghi—the old Right, in short—had not dared to do—that is, in drawing towards the Central Powers—did not go so far as to understand that the rupture of the English-French condominium in Egypt—brought about in 1881- 82 by the appearance on the scene of the Arabi party, secretly pushed from Berlin—offered Italy the chance of leading Gladstone himself to lean on Italy and her allies, and no longer upon Paris and Petersburg; or, if it was understood, faith and courage were wanting.
'"It was an axiom with Menabrea, with Nigra, with Corti, that Italy and England herself could do nothing in the Mediterranean without France, still less do anything against France. The last conversation of Corti with Crispi shows plainly his conviction that a real alliance of Italy and England was a Utopia. How many times after 1870 had not Italy been disappointed in attempts to obtain from England a share of influence in Egypt! How many times had not Italy been sacrificed to the private arrangements of England with France in Egyptian affairs! How could the idea that Germany was to replace France in the Eastern policy of Italy and England have entered into the mind of the Cabinet of Rome when it had not entered into the mind of the Cabinet of St. James's!
'"A thousand financial, journalistic, parliamentary connections attached to France both the Gladstone Cabinet and the Ministry of Mancini—the legal counsel of M. de Lesseps. The dream of treble condominium in Egypt was strong in Mancini and Depretis, as in Minghetti, Visconti, and Cairoli. This dream was encouraged by the Cabinet of Paris, which kept Italy in tow by this vain hope, and also by the fear of fresh French enterprises in Africa, for the French threatened Italy with renewing in Tripoli the precedent of Tunis if Italy broke towards French policy in the East the bonds contracted between them in the Crimean War and the treaties of 1856.
'"The reserve, the abstention of Germany and Austria, which Powers pretended to disinterest themselves from the Egyptian question, and opened to France in Africa a chance of compensation for the loss of Alsace, helped to keep Mancini and Depretis, tied also by party connections to the French democracy, in the absurd idea that Italy could keep herself in stable equilibrium between two alliances—an alliance with Germany in Continental affairs, and with France in Mediterranean questions. This idea had for its result to render unintelligible for the Italian public the alliance of Italy with the Central Powers, sterilized and perverted through not being boldly applied by Italy to the affairs of the Mediterranean and of the Levant. But once again Italy did not believe herself strong enough to overcome the indifference which England showed for Mediterranean questions—more and more thrown into the background in English minds by the interests of the British colonial empire in distant seas. Australia seemed looked upon at London as more important than Turkey or Egypt itself, and the idea that the first line of defence of India is at Constantinople, the seat of the Khalifat, seemed forgotten by the successors of Disraeli. It took seven years for the idea, born in 1881, of making Italy a connecting link in an Anglo-German alliance, to become a practical one at Home, as it did under Crispi.
'"To return to the question of the refusal of Italy to intervene alone with England in Egypt in 1882, it is necessary to know that when the French Government was informed of the drawing together of Italy and of the Central Powers, France hastened at the end of 1881 to exercise pressure upon the Mancini-Depretis Cabinet by threatening it, not only with fresh enterprise in Tripoli, but with direct hostility if Italy took sides against France in those Egyptian affairs which were at that moment becoming complicated. The Radical Committees of France and Italy were threatening armed movements in the former Papal States, and French money was spent in the Italian elections of 1881. The greater part of the Italian Press was bought up by a Gambetta-Wilson group in such a way that Italian opinion was directed from Paris by the Italian newspapers, as it had already been by the Stefani-Havas Agency. The effect of this preparation was seen when the bombardment of Alexandria was taken as the text for a general opening of fire on the part of the Italian and French Press against England. When Freycinet refused the English proposal for treble intervention, he caused it to be known at Rome that France would look upon it as an act of hostility on the part of Italy if that Power should take in Egypt the position which belonged to France, and occupy, without France, any portion of Egyptian territory.
'"He also used as a bait to Mancini the idea of a treble condominium, by making him believe that Italy and Russia could, by procuring for a treble intervention the adhesion of the whole concert of European Powers, prevent it becoming dangerous from the point of view of the two-faced policy of which Germany was suspected at Rome. To act so that France could, without the fear of a snare on the part of Germany, intervene in Egypt with Italy and England—such was the part which France proposed to Mancini that he should play, and which he accepted and did play in the Constantinople conference. The outward and visible sign of this programme was that wonderful patrol of the Canal which was adopted in principle on the motion of Corti, and was intended to lead up to the treble condominium by the treble occupation of the Suez Canal with a mandate of Europe. 'Success seemed certain,' funnily declared the Mancini telegrams of the moment, when came the British invitation to Italy for a double intervention. Neither Menabrea, nor Mancini, nor Corti, took this invitation seriously, and they saw in it only the hesitation of England, a Power which they supposed entirely incapable of such boldness as isolated action. They never believed for a moment but that the refusal by Italy of a double intervention would have for effect a treble occupation. You know how this illusion of a treble occupation died a wretched death in the ridiculous appearance of Italian and French ships in the neighbourhood of the Canal just at the moment when Wolseley seized it before Tel-el-Kebir.
'"The same idea of becoming the binding link in Mediterranean affairs, not between Berlin and London, but between Paris and London, continued to animate Mancini and Depretis even after England had become the sole power in occupation of Egypt. The expedition to Massowah in 1885 was an expression of this tendency. From the beginning of 1884, in face of the Hicks disaster, of the prolongation of the British occupation, of the return to power of Nubar, France considered a plan for disembarking at Massowah troops recalled from Tonquin, where she was supposed to be safe after the success of Sontay. In order not to leave without some counterweight in the Red Sea the consolidation of British domination in Egypt, France would have returned to Egypt by Massowah and the Soudan. When she decided to suspend this operation, she advised it to Italy as a means of giving expression to the Franco-Italian view of the internationality of the Canal and Red Sea. Mancini, whom the Italian Chamber blamed for having not taken part in the colonial fever which had affected Germany herself in 1884-85, adopted the idea of an expedition to Massowah at the moment when Wolseley seemed likely to enter Khartoum.'
'"We have not as yet been able to get out of this trap in which we are caught, and in which the Russians and French try to keep us paralyzed. Capital and disastrous blunders, evident contradictions with the idea of the alliance of Italy with the Central Powers, completed by the understanding with England! But England herself, is she without fault? Is her Egyptian policy more clear and more strong? Is she not herself in Egypt also taken in the toils of Franco-Levantine influences, as dominant at Cairo as they are at Constantinople? It is not on the national and Mohammedan spirit that England in Egypt leans, but on Franco-Levantine cliques and Graeco-Armenian cliques sold to French finance. Hence the decline of British influence in the Levant. The memorandum which I have sent shows what a different line Italy and England may follow if they do not wish the Mediterranean to become a Franco-Russian lake, and the Khalif, in the character of a new Bey of Tunis, lending the flag of the Prophet to Russia for the conquest of India and to France to complete her African Empire."
'The memorandum enclosed by him to which he refers was sent by him for the purpose that it should be communicated by us to friends in Rome who were likely to bring it before Crispi, whose Foreign Minister in 1893 Blanc became.'
ENTRY INTO THE CABINET SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER, 1882
Part of Sir Charles's routine was his morning bout of fencing. [Footnote: Sir Charles's fencing seems to have dated from 1874, during his stay in Paris after his first wife's death. Fuller reference to fencing at 76, Sloane Street and to his antagonists will be found in Chapter XLVII. (Vol. II., pp. 233, 234). ] This was the relaxation which he managed to fit into his crowded daily life, but his weekly holiday he spent upon the river. He notes, just before the Parliamentary crisis due to the bombardment of Alexandria:
'At this time I had given up the practice of going out of town to stay with friends for Sundays, and I did not resume it, for I found it better for me to get my work done on the Saturday night and my Foreign Office boxes early on the Sunday morning, to go to the Abbey on the Sunday morning at ten, and after this service to go on the river, and go to bed at eight o'clock at least this one night in the week, and I bought a piece of land at Dumsey Deep, near Chertsey, with the view of building a cottage there.'
It was not here, however, that he built his riverside house, but close by, at Dockett Eddy, which he bought in the following summer. [Footnote: A fuller account of life in his riverside home is to be found in Chapter LI. (Vol. II., pp. 317-324).] The two pieces of ground were connected by a long strip of frontage which he acquired, thereby saving the willows and alders which then sheltered that reach, and made it a windless course for sculling. Even more perfect was it, by reason of its gravelly bottom, for another form of watermanship. On Sunday, October 22nd, 1882,
'after Westminster Abbey I went down to Teddington, and took a lesson in punting from Kemp, the Teddington fisherman, and from this time forward became devoted to the art, for which I gave up my canoeing.'
His resolve to spend his Sundays in retreat on the river did not pass without protest from his friends, as is shown by a characteristic letter from Sir William Harcourt:
"CUFFNELLS, LYNDHURST, "August 28, 1882."
"Don't be an odious solitary snipe in the ooze of the Thames, but come down here at once and nurse Bobby.
"Yours ever, W. V. H."
"Bobby" was Mr. Robert Harcourt, now M.P. for the Montrose Burghs.
"LALEHAM FERRY (for this night only. I shall be at the P.O. every day this week). "August 29th.
"MY DEAR HARCOURT,
"I went to bed on Saty. night at dark and on Sunday night at dark. Last night I was late from London, and sat up till nearly 9! Bobby himself can hardly beat that, can he? On the other hand, he does not get a swim in the Thames at 5 a.m., or breakfast at 6, as I do.
"It is very good of you—and like old times—for you to press me to come down, and, believe me, I should like my company. But when, as now, I am splendidly well, and only want to make up arrears of sleep, the river is the best place for me. I shall go to Walmer next week, but then that is sea, and sea is sleepy too; and I have all my work there with the telegraph in the House, and messengers four times a day as if I was in the F.O., so I can be away—and yet be on duty—as I promised to be till 19th or 20th Septr....
"... This is the longest letter that I was ever known to write in all my life, except perhaps once or twice to you in the old days."
It had now been decided that Wentworth Dilke, being eight years old, should go to school and leave Mr. Chamberlain's house, of which he had been an inmate for some eighteen months.
'On the day of Tel-el-Kebir I received a very pleasing letter from Chamberlain, thanking me for what I had said to him about his reception for so long a period at Highbury of my son. It was a touching letter, which showed both delicacy and warmth of affection.'
On September 21st Sir Charles Dilke went to Birmingham to take his boy to Mrs. Maclaren's school at Summerfields, near Oxford. 'Then crossing to Waterford, spent five days in the South of Ireland—and afterwards went straight to St. Tropez to stay with M. Emile Ollivier.' "Il faut fermer la boutique et alors on se trouve tout de suite bien," is his comment as he started on one such journey.
'During my visit to Ollivier I explored the south coast of the mountains of the Moors, along which there was no road, and bought some land at Cavalaire, against the possible chance of a boulevard being made through my land at Toulon in such a way as to cut me off from the sea. I walked from Bormes to the Lavandou upon the coast, and fancied I found the path by which St. Francis journeyed when he landed to save Provence from the plague. It is hollowed out by feet, in some places to three feet deep through the hard quartz and schist, and everywhere at least six inches, so its age is evidently great, and it must have been a path in the days of Saracen domination, if not even in or before the Roman times, for the two villages were ever small.
'At Ste. Claire, the first bay eastward from the Lavandou, I had seen a funeral in which all the crucifixes were borne before the corpse by women, and the coffin carried by women. Ollivier's father was still living—Demosthene, born under the First Republic, and a deputy under the Second: an old Jacobin of an almost extinct type. Ollivier's house is as pretty as the whole coast. It stands on a peninsula with perfect sands, one or other of which is sheltered for bathing in any wind, and instead of the usual parched sterility of Provence, springs rise all round the house, which is lost in a dense forest of young palms. The views are not from the house, but from the various shores of the peninsula, all these, however, being close at hand. I had for escort in my trips about the coast the famous Felix Martin, founder and Mayor of St. Raphael and of Valescure, a railway engineer who was known as the American of Provence, and who, in fact, is the most desperate and the most interesting and pleasant speculator of France. Speaking to me of Frejus, my favourite town, and its surroundings, Martin called it "the Roman Campagna on the Bay of Naples," a very pretty phrase, absolutely true of it, for the scenery is that of the plain between Naples and Capua, but the ruins and the solemnity of the foreground were those of the outskirts of Rome till Martin spoilt it. At the spot where I bought my land eighty boats of Spanish and Italian coral fishers were at anchor. I picked up Roman tiles upon my ground, and found a Roman tomb in the centre of my plot.'
'I was struck with some of the old chateaux in the woods as I returned along the coast to Toulon. Near Bormettes there are two which were nationalized at the Revolution, and the families of the buyers, having turned Legitimist and put stained glass into the chapel windows, are now becoming nobles in their turn, at all events in their own estimation, and thriving upon cork and American vines.[Footnote: The piece of land at Cavalaire was never built on by Sir Charles, but he remained owner of it till 1905, when it was sold by him. His friendship with the Ollivier household continued till the end of his life.]
'It was during this visit that Ollivier made use of a phrase which I have repeated: "When one looks at the Republic one says: 'It can't last a week—it is dead.' But when one looks at what is opposed to it, one says: 'It is eternal.'"'
The true inner history and genesis of the Franco-Prussian War formed matter for talk with Ollivier, who was among the half-dozen men in Europe best able to inform Sir Charles on the question. The Memoir records a reminiscence told by M. Ollivier.
'When the war broke out, he naturally asked the Emperor about his alliances. The Emperor, who was singularly sweet and winning in his ways, smiled his best smile but said nothing, walked to a table, unlocked a drawer, and took out two letters-one from the Emperor of Austria, and the other from the King of Italy, both promising their alliance. But, although this was Ollivier's story, the Italian letter must have been conditional. Ollivier set down the defeat to this slowness of action, and supineness, due first to the Emperor's firm belief that Austria would move, and then to his stone in the bladder and refusal to let anyone else command. At a later date I became aware of the true story, which was that afterwards told by me in Cosmopolis. [Footnote: "The Origin of the War of 1870," by Sir Charles Dilke, Cosmopolis, January, 1896.] Austria had declined to join in a war begun in the middle of the summer. It had been fixed for May, 1871. Bismarck found this out from the Magyars, and made the war in 1870.'
To the detail thus gained at first hand Sir Charles Dilke added another in the next year. On February 1st, 1883, he met at Sir William Harcourt's house the Italian Ambassador Count Nigra, who had been in 1870 Minister in Paris:
'He told me that in 1866 the Italians had sent to Paris to ask whether they should join Prussia or Austria, both of whom had promised to give them Venice, and how the Emperor had told them that Italy was to join Prussia as the weaker side, and that when the combatants were exhausted he intended to take the Rhine. Nigra also told me that in 1870 the Emperor had told him that he meant peace, and that it was Gramont on his own account who had told Benedetti to get from the King of Prussia the promise for the future. This was all superficial, as we now know that Nigra was, as the Empress Eugenie said in 1907, a "false friend." Nigra said that Bismarck had made the war by telegraphing his own highly coloured account of the interview; for the French official account, which had only reached Paris (according to Nigra) after war had been declared, had shown that the King had been very civil to Benedetti, although the French Ambassador had persisted in raising the question no less than three several times.... [Footnote: The famous interview at Ems between the King of Prussia and M. Benedetti, the French Ambassador at Berlin, is referred to. See Benedetti, Ma Mission en Prusse, chap. vi.; Bismarck, His Reflections and Reminiscences, translated from the German under the supervision of A. J. Butler, vol. ii., chap, xxii.; Life of Granville, vol. ii., chap. ii.]
'On my return through Paris in September, 1882, I had interviews with Duclerc, the French Prime Minister, and with Nubar, as well as with Gambetta. Duclerc I found a cross old man, who was furious because I mentioned Madagascar. On the Tunis capitulations I found the French willing to come to an agreement; but Egypt, the Suez Canal, the Congo, the Pacific Islands, and Newfoundland were all of them difficult questions at this time....
'In a talk with Gambetta on October 19th he said to me that it was his intention, "whether I liked Duclerc or not," to keep him in power, whether he does what he ought, does nothing, or does what is ridiculous. The curse of France is instability. Duclerc is an honest man.' Gambetta was 'aged and in bad spirits.'
Sir Charles communicated this expression through Mr. Plunkett, the British Charge d'Affaires, to M. Duclerc. "I gave him the third alternative in more diplomatic language," Mr. Plunkett wrote, "but he understood me, and we laughed over the idea."
A general reflection of this year is that 'Gambetta hates fools in theory, and loves them, I think, in practice.'
In London during the autumn session Sir Charles records some interesting gossip, to which may be added this first entry of earlier date:
'Lord Granville was a most able man, who did not, in my opinion, decline in intellectual vigour during the many years in which he took a great part in public affairs. He always had the habit of substitution of words, and I have known him carry on a long conversation with me at the Foreign Office about the proceedings of two Ambassadors who were engaged on opposite sides in a great negotiation, and call "A" B, and "B" A through the whole of it, which was, to say the least of it, confusing. He also sometimes entirely forgot the principal name in connection with the subject—as, for example, that of Mr. Gladstone when Prime Minister—and had to resort to the most extraordinary forms of language in order to convey his meaning. The only other person in whom I have ever seen this peculiarity carried to such a point was the Khedive Ismail, who sent for me when I was in office and he in London, and when the Dervishes were advancing upon Egypt, to say that he had an important piece of information to give the Government, which was the name of a spot at which the Dervishes might easily be checked, owing to the narrowness of the valley. He kept working up to the name, and each time failing to give it, so that I ultimately went away without having been able to get from him the one thing which would have made the information useful. Each time he closed his speech by saying, "Le nom de ce point important est—chose—machine—chose," and so on...
'On Thursday, November 2nd, I breakfasted with Mr. Gladstone to meet the Duc de Broglie. We discussed the question of the authorship of the pretty definition of Liberal-Conservatives as men who sometimes think right, but always vote wrong. But even Arthur Russell, who was at the breakfast with his wife, could throw no light upon the matter. Madame Olga Novikof was also present, and, of course, the Duc de Broglie took me into a corner to ask me if it was true that Mr. Gladstone was absolutely under her influence. She announced her intention of going the next day to Birmingham, and Mr. Gladstone asked Chamberlain to go with her, although he did not know her and although there was a Cabinet; but Chamberlain refused.
'In the evening of November 15th there dined with me John Morley, Lord Arthur Russell, and Gibson, afterwards Lord Ashbourne, Huxley, the Rector of Lincoln, and some others; and, thanks to Gibson, who was very lively, the conversation was better than such things often are. He was deep in the secrets of Randolph Churchill...
'I was asked from 24th to 27th to stay with the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh at Eastwell Park, but was also asked to Sandringham.
'The Princess of Wales told me a story of the Shah which had amused her. Walking with her at the State Ball, he had clutched her arm, and with much excitement asked about the Highland costume which he had seen for the first time. Having thus got the word "Ecossais" into his head, and afterwards seeing Beust with his legs in pink silk stockings, he again clutched her, and exclaimed: "Trop nu—plus nu qu'Ecossais."'
The business of the autumn Session was limited, by agreement, to determining the new "Rules of Procedure."
'On Friday, October 20th, there was a Cabinet which decided to stick to our first resolution on procedure—that is on the closure—without change; or, in other words, to closure by a bare majority.'
When the matter came to a vote in the House, the Government were saved from defeat by the support of Mr. Parnell and his adherents, who were determined not to have closure by a two-thirds majority, which could in practice be used only against a small group.
'On Monday, October 23rd, the Cabinet considered the principle of delegation of duties from Parliament itself to Grand Committees, to be proposed in the procedure resolutions.'
This was the beginning of what is now the ordinary procedure in all Bills, except those of the first importance. It was introduced expressly as an experiment on six months' trial; and it appears that it was not adopted without much opposition in the Cabinet, for the Memoir records:
'On November 21st Hartington and Harcourt tried hard to induce Mr. Gladstone to drop his idea of Grand Committees, and I noted in my diary: "If they are dropped now they are dead for ever—that is, for a year at least. 'Ever' in politics means one year."'
On November 13th Lord Randolph Churchill, in a discourse upon the right to make motions for adjournment, contrived, by way of happy illustration, to refer to the "Kilmainham Treaty." The phrase in itself was a red rag to Mr. Gladstone, but Lord Randolph added to the provocation by describing it as "a most disgraceful transaction, so obnoxious that its precise terms had never been made known." Mr. Gladstone charged fiercely at the lure, denied that there had been any "treaty," and challenged the Opposition to move for a Committee of Inquiry.
On November 14th, between two meetings at Lord Granville's house, at which 'Kimberley, Northbrook, Carlingford, and Childers were present with myself, there was a discussion at lunch as to Mr. Gladstone's promise of a Committee on the Kilmainham Treaty, at which all his colleagues of the Cabinet were furious.'
On November 16th:
'a Cabinet was suddenly called for this afternoon to consider Mr. Gladstone's extraordinary blunder in granting a Committee on the Treaty of Kilmainham. The whole of his colleagues had been against him when he had previously wished to do it, and now he had done it without asking one of them. Grosvenor, the Whip, thought it would upset the Government. Mr. Gladstone expressed his regret to his colleagues that he had been carried away by his temper. Harcourt said that no two of the witnesses would give the same account of the transaction, and that while Mr. Gladstone might force Chamberlain, as his subordinate, to make a clean breast of it, it was hard on Parnell.
'There was later in the day a private conversation between Chamberlain and Harcourt and Grosvenor as to the Kilmainham Committee, Chamberlain declaring that if called before a Committee he must read all the letters, and Harcourt saying that if they were read he should resign.'
When the Session opened on October 27th, the Memoir indicates that the Prime Minister's retirement was expected.
On November 4th there was a dinner at 76, Sloane Street, at which Mr. Gladstone, Lord Granville, the Dean of Westminster, Mr. Balfour, and others, came to meet the Duc de Broglie. In the course of the evening,
'Mr. Gladstone told me that he had finally decided not to meet Parliament again in February. The gossip was that Hartington was to be Prime Minister, that Fawcett would resign if not put into the Cabinet, and Chamberlain and I had agreed to insist on county franchise '(which meant a very large extension of the suffrage),' and to withdraw our opposition to Goschen, it being understood that he gave way on county franchise. It was far from certain that Mr. Gladstone meant Hartington to be leader on his retirement. The Duchess of Manchester had told me just before my dinner on Saturday, November 4th, that Mr. Gladstone had written to Lord Granville to tell him he should not meet Parliament again, saying that he wrote to him as he had been leader when the party had been in Opposition. The letter had been shown to Hartington, who was much irritated at the phrase. The letter was also sent on to the Queen, and the Duchess thought that the Queen had said in reply that if Mr. Gladstone resigned she should send not for Lord Granville, but for Hartington.
'On Monday, November 6th, I heard more about the proposed resignation of Mr. Gladstone. He had declared that he would not take a peerage, but had promised not to attend the House of Commons, and I thought that Hartington would make his going to the Lords, or at least leaving the Commons, a condition. I pressed for the inclusion of Courtney in the Cabinet in the event of any change.'
Although one of Mr. Gladstone's junior colleagues from 1880 onwards, Sir Charles Dilke had been frequently in disagreement with him, and in 1882 had refused to accept the Irish Secretaryship. Yet it was to Sir Charles that Mr. Gladstone in 1882 was beginning to look as his ultimate successor in the lead of the House of Commons. A passage in Lord Acton's correspondence shows how Mr. Gladstone's mind was working at this time. A breakfast-table discussion between Miss Gladstone and her father is noted by her, at which, on the assumption of Mr. Gladstone's retirement and the removal of Lord Hartington to the House of Lords, the names of possible successors to the leadership of the House of Commons were discussed. The Chief's estimate of Dilke was thus given:
"The future leader of H. of C. was a great puzzle and difficulty. Sir Charles Dilke would probably be the man best fitted for it; he had shown much capacity for learning and unlearning, but he would require Cabinet training first." [Footnote: Letters of Lord Acton, p. 90.]
It followed, then, that if Mr. Gladstone seriously contemplated resignation, he was bound to insure that Sir Charles got without more delay the "Cabinet training." It was absurd that the Minister in whom Mr. Gladstone saw the likeliest future leader of the House of Commons should be kept technically, and to some extent really, outside the inner circle of confidence and responsibility.
By the middle of November the hint of Mr. Gladstone's retirement had leaked out, and conjecture was busy with reconstruction of the Cabinet. Apart from the question of the Prime Minister's position, speculation was kept active by the fact that since Mr. Bright's retirement in June no appointment had been made to the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster, that office having no very urgent or definite duties. There was also the widespread feeling that Sir Charles Dilke's admission to the Cabinet was overdue, and men guessed rightly at the cause of the delay. Meanwhile the leaders of the party were considering how far these causes still operated. On November 16th Sir Charles was approached by the Chief Whip.
'Lord R. Grosvenor, after the Cabinet, came to me, and asked me if I thought that the Queen was now willing to have me in the Cabinet. I said that so far as I knew the trouble was at an end. He replied that he had had two accounts of it. Harcourt told him that both the Prince of Wales and Prince Leopold had said that she had made up her mind to take me; but Hartington said that she had told him a different story. I said I did not know which was right; but that she could take me or leave me, for not another word would I say.
'Sunday, November 19th, I spent at Cuffnells, Lyndhurst—the home of "Alice in Wonderland," Mrs. Hargreaves, Dean Liddel's daughter—with the Harcourts, and Harcourt told me that he believed in Mr. Gladstone's retirement.'
In the last days of November Sir Charles was at Sandringham with Mr. Chamberlain.
'Chamberlain told me that Lord Hartington and Lord Granville were going to insist with Mr. Gladstone that he should stay as nominal Prime Minister, Hartington taking the Exchequer and dividing the lead of the House with him, and Rosebery and I being put into the Cabinet.
'On December 1st there was a Cabinet, before which Lord Granville told me that I was to be put into the Cabinet at once if the Queen consented. When they met at two o'clock the Cabinet were told of this and strict secrecy sworn, but two of them immediately came and told me that it was settled I was to be Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.'
The Chancellorship of the Duchy presented itself to Sir Charles Dilke as a kind of roving commission to help other Ministers with the detail of measures. But the Queen took the view that this place was a "peculiarly personal one," and should be held by someone whom she considered a "moderate" politician, and who need not be in the Cabinet. On December 4th
'the Queen, who had been informed that she was still a free agent with regard to me, had hesitated with regard to the Duchy of Lancaster, which had, of course, been conditionally accepted by me on the understanding that I was to be man-of-all-work in the Cabinet. It was understood on this day that Childers was to be Chancellor of the Exchequer if his health allowed it, and a delay was granted for his decision or that of his doctors; and it was understood that Lord Derby was to come in in Childers' place. Evelyn Ashley was suggested for my place; and Edmond Fitzmaurice, Henry Brand, or Brett for Ashley's' (that of Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade).
On December 7th it was settled that
'Hartington was to go to the War Office if the doctors pronounced Childers well enough to take the Exchequer, and this would leave the Under-Secretaryships for the Colonies and India, as well as for Foreign Affairs, open between Fitzmaurice, Ashley, Brand, and Brett.
'Harcourt wrote on the 7th about Mr. Gladstone: "The resignation project is for the present adjourned sine die."
'On Saturday, December 9th, Childers came to me from Mr. Gladstone to ask if I objected (as we had settled that it would be improper for me to invite a contest in Chelsea on the old register in the last month of the year) to letting my appointment be known before it was made, and I consented, although this would have had the effect, in the event of opposition, of giving me a twenty days' fight instead of one of only seventeen.'
Mr. Gladstone now put forward a different proposal:
'On Monday, the 11th, I saw the Prince of Wales with regard to my appointment. On the same day Mr. Gladstone had some trouble with the Queen about the Primacy, as he told me on December 12th.... On the 12th I wrote to Chamberlain that Austin Lee had told me that the Queen had some days earlier told our friend Prince Leopold that she was willing that I should be in the Cabinet, but not in the Duchy, and it was this that she had said to Mr. Gladstone on the 11th about which he sent for me on the 12th. He said that he thought it would be possible to get over this objection in time, but that there was another possibility about which he asked me to write to Chamberlain, but not as from him. I wrote: "Would you take the Duchy and let me go to the Board of Trade, you keeping your Bills? This would be unpleasant to you personally, I feel sure, unless for my sake, though the Duchy is of superior rank. It would, of course, be a temporary stopgap, as there must be other changes soon. It is not necessary that you should do it, else I know that you would do it for me. So that please feel you are really free. I told Mr. Gladstone that I could only put it to you in such a way as to leave you free. You had better perhaps write your answer so that I can show it him, though I suppose he will suppose himself not to have seen it!"'
On December 13th the Prince of Wales sent for Sir Charles to advise his pressing this course on Mr. Chamberlain. But on that same day Mr. Chamberlain replied from Highbury:
"MY DEAR DILKE,
"Your letter has spoilt my breakfast. The change will be loathsome to me for more than one reason, and will give rise to all sorts of disagreeable commentaries. But if it is the only way out of the difficulty, I will do what I am sure you would have done in my place— accept the transfer. I enclose a note to this effect which you can show to Mr. G. Consider, however, if there is any alternative. I regard your immediate admission to the Cabinet as imperative, and therefore if this can only be secured by my taking the Duchy, cadit quaestio, and I shall never say another word on the subject. Two other courses are possible, though I fear unlikely to be accepted: (1) Mr. Gladstone might tell the Queen that I share the opinions you have expressed with regard to the dowries, and intend to make common cause with you—that if your appointment is refused I shall leave the Government, and that the effect will be to alienate the Radical Party from the Ministry and the Crown, and to give prominence to a question which it would be more prudent to allow to slumber. I think the Queen would give way. If not we should both go out. We should stand very well with our party, and in a year or two we could make our own terms. Personally I would rather go out than take the Duchy.... (2) Has the matter been mentioned to Dodson? He might like an office with less work, [Footnote: Mr. Dodson was President of the Local Government Board.] and he might be influenced by the nominally superior rank.... Now you have my whole mind. I would gladly avoid the sacrifice, but if your inclusion in the Cabinet depends upon it, I will make it freely and with pleasure for your sake."
'The result was that Dodson "put himself in Mr. Gladstone's hands." There was, however, an interval of ten days, during which things went backwards and forwards much.'
The probability of the Queen's refusal to accept Mr. Chamberlain for the Duchy made his threat of resignation more serious, and a letter came to Sir Charles from Mr. Francis Knollys deprecating this vehemently on behalf of the Prince of Wales. Its last sentence is worth quoting, as it endorsed what was known to be Dilke's own special wish:
"What he would like to see would be Lord Northbrook at the India Office and you at the Admiralty."
'On December 14th I saw Mr. Gladstone, but a new opening had arisen, for Fawcett was very ill, and supposed to be dying, and Mr. Gladstone determined to wait for a few days to see whether he got better....
'On December 16th Mr. Gladstone pledged himself to me in writing with regard to putting me immediately into the Cabinet in some place, and on December 17th the Queen agreed that a paragraph to that effect should be sent to the newspapers. On the 18th, however, she declined to entertain the question of taking Chamberlain for the Duchy. On December 20th Mr. Gladstone wrote that he was "between the devil and the deep sea." I do not know which of the two meant the Queen, and whether the other was myself or Chamberlain. On December 21st Chamberlain came up to town to see me. On the 22nd the Dodson plan went forward in letters from Mr. Gladstone to Sir Henry Ponsonby, the Queen's Secretary, and from Lord Hartington, to the Queen. On the 22nd at night Dodson accepted it, and on the 23rd I was formally so informed, and virtually accepted the Presidency of the Local Government Board, which I nominally accepted on December 26th.'
Before Sir Charles vacated the seat by his letter of acceptance, the Tories in Chelsea had met and decided not to oppose him. Among the letters of congratulation none gratified the new Minister more than one from Lord Barrington, Lord Beaconsfield's former private secretary, who wrote, even before the appointment was officially confirmed:
"I like watching your political career as, besides personal feeling, it makes me think of what my dear old chief used to say about you— that you were the rising man on the other side."
On December 27th Lord Granville sent from Walmer Castle a letter of characteristic courtesy and charm.[Footnote: The letter given in Chapter XX., p. 311.] It crossed an expression of gratitude already despatched by his junior:
"MY DEAR LORD GRANVILLE,
"Having received Mr. Gladstone's letter with the Queen's approval, I write to thank you for all your many kindnesses to me while I have been under your orders. I shall continue to attend the office until the Council, but I cannot let the day close without trying to express in one word all that I owe to you as regards the last thirty-two months.
"CHARLES W. DILKE."
But it was much later, when the Government had fallen, that this "one word" came to be developed.
"76, SLOANE STREET, S.W. "Tuesday, July 14th, 1885.
"MY DEAR LORD GRANVILLE,
"I am glad you feel as you do about me. Malicious people and foolish people have both so long said that I wanted to be S. of S. for For. Affs. myself that I never expect to be believed when I say the simple truth—that in my opinion it ought to be in the Lords as long as there are Lords, and that my only wish was to be of any help I could. I can only think of the Errington-Walsh business when I think over points on which we have differed, and I cannot help scoring that down to Forster and the silly Irish Government, and not to you, though you are so loyal a colleague that when you have accepted you always actively support.
"I do not suppose I shall ever, if again in office, have such pleasant official days as those I spent in the F.O. under you, but the next best thing would be at the Admiralty—the office to which all my life has always inclined me—to obey your orders from the F.O.
"I am sure you will believe this even if no one else will, and believe me also ever
"Yours very affectionately and sincerely,
"CHARLES W. DILKE."
'Trevelyan, in sending his congratulations from the Chief Secretary's Office at Dublin, asked me for the earliest possible draft of heads of my Local Government Bill for England: "in case it is settled that we are to bring one in—a move which I have come to think is necessary. They need not run on all fours, but there are points on which it would not do to adopt a different policy."'
To the Secretary of State's congratulations, Sir Julian Pauncefote, permanent head of the Foreign Office staff, added his tribute:
"How we all deplore your departure, none so much as myself. You will leave behind you a lasting memory of your kindness and geniality, and of your great talents."
Other friends, among them Mr. Knollys, assumed as a matter of course that the promotion would bring a change from congenial to uncongenial work. They were right. "I shall be in the Local Government Board by Wednesday, as I shan't, after Chamberlain's kindness, put him in a place which he will like less than the Board of Trade. Shan't I hate it after this place!" Sir Charles Dilke wrote. "But," he added, "it will 'knock the nonsense out of me.'" That was the view put to him, for instance, by Lord Barrington. "In the end it is well that a Minister should go through the comparative drudgery of other offices. It gets him 'out of a groove.'"
Mr. Gladstone, on making what Sir Charles Dilke calls 'the formal announcement' on December 23rd, wrote:
"Notwithstanding the rubs of the past, I am sanguine as to your future relations with the Queen. There are undoubtedly many difficulties in that quarter, but they are in the main confined to three or four departments. Your office will not touch them, while you will have in common with all your colleagues the benefit of two great modifying circumstances which never fail—the first her high good manners, and the second her love of truth....
"I have entered on these explanations, because it is my fervent desire, on every ground, to reduce difficulties in such high and delicate matters to their minimum; and because, with the long years which I hope you have before you, I also earnestly desire that your start should be favourable in your relations with the Sovereign."
This was written only a few weeks after the Prime Minister had spoken to his intimates of Dilke as some day his probable successor in the leadership of the House of Commons. Mr. Gladstone did not omit to urge that the new Minister should do his best to conciliate good-will. The Queen, he said, "looked with some interest or even keenness to the words of explanation as to the distant past," which Sir Charles himself had— "not in any way as a matter of bargain, but as a free tender"—proposed to use.
They were guarded. In an address delivered at Kensington before his re- election, he dwelt almost exclusively on questions of Local Government, and coming to the Government of London, he said:
"There were very many subjects upon which one might modify one's opinions as one grew older; there were opinions of political infancy which, as one grew older, one might regard as unwise, or might prefer not to have uttered; but upon the Government of London—the opinions he expressed in 1867 were his personal opinions at the present time."
This and the closing admission that when he first came before the electors of Chelsea, he "was only between three-and four-and-twenty years of age, and was perhaps at that time rather scatter-brained," are all the allusions to the remote past which the speech contains; but there is every reason to believe that it was taken as satisfactory. Mr. Gladstone wrote that the comments of the Conservative press, which were pretty certain to be read at Osborne, would be useful. Finally, "to integrate their correspondence," he added this reference to Sir Charles's known wish for the Admiralty:
"I passed over the suggestion about clearing the Admiralty (a) from reluctance to start Northbrook's removal to any less efficient place; (b) on account of Parliamentary displacements; not at all because it was too big a place to vacate and offer."
'All the same,' the Memoir adds, 'I liked the L.G.B.'
The change of office did not mean any severance from foreign policy, which Sir Charles could now approach in his proper sphere, with the authority of a Cabinet Minister. He was succeeded by Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, who had returned from his mission to Constantinople. Dilke wrote on December 23rd to Lord Granville: "I should suggest that no time be lost in getting Fitzmaurice here. He likes work, and will go at these matters like a lion."
'On the last day of the old year Lord Granville, writing from Walmer to thank me for what I had said about him to my constituents, added: "I have given the sack to —— at the end of the five years' limit which now expires. He would like to keep the appointment on leave for six months, and might be very useful in advising the office. But would there be any House of Commons objection to this prolongation?" This was a specimen of the way in which, after I had left the Foreign Office, all Foreign Office questions were still thrown on to me; and as a matter of fact I did almost as much Foreign Office work during the year 1883 as I had done from 1880 to 1882. Fitzmaurice, however, was able, and worked very hard, and he gradually acquired an enormous mastery of the detail of the questions.' [Footnote: Sir Charles notes how glad he was to induce Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice to continue Mr. Austin Lee in the post of official private secretary.]